The UK has been experiencing an MDMA shortage and according to experts, the “drought” can be traced back to COVID-19, Brexit and the subsequent disruptions to supply lines.
It's thought the recent reduction in Heavy Goods Vehicles transporting items across the UK has also had an effect on the distribution of the substance.
Speaking to the Metro, Niamh Eastwood, executive director of drugs charity Release, explained that the shortage “could certainly be a result of the reduction of HGVs carrying goods in from Europe, where illegal goods would usually be concealed amongst legal products, and where suppliers have prioritised getting in more lucrative drugs, such as cocaine and heroin.”
Indeed, since England is currently one of the only European countries in which clubs are open, MDMA producers in the Netherlands - the main manufacturing area— may not see the industry as profitable enough until festivals and clubs return on their usual scale.
Eastwood continued: “Like many other goods that are imported into the UK, we are seeing the supply chain for some illicit substances affected, although as this is an unregulated market it is hard to pin it down… and it is likely the result of a number of different factors.”
The difficulties in accessing MDMA have led to a rise of fake alternatives at clubs and festivals in the UK.
Drug testing and advice charity The Loop reported that only half of the MDMA tested at Lost Village Festival last weekend actually contained the substance. Instead, partygoers had been sold a mixture of substitute substances such as 4-CMC, 3-MMC and eutylone— all of which are reported to cause anxiety, paranoia and more intensive redosing.
Last month, there were reports of "fake MDMA" containing 4-CMC circulating in Manchester. Though the substance has been used to pad out illegal substances before, it has been found at a much higher concentration recently.
The Manchester Drug Analysis & Knowledge Exchange (MANDRAKE) issued warnings on social media.
MANDRAKE’s director, Dr Oliver Sutcliffe, told The Daily Mail: "These compounds are potentially more harmful, but the fact is they're not fully understood therefore people don't really understand what doses of things to take or what happens if they are taken in combination.”
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Since clubs reopened in the UK, there have been a number of high-profile incidents related to harmful batches of ecstasy. In July, 2 people died in Bristol and a further 20 were hospitalised after taking blue "Tesla" pills that contained super-strength MDMA.
The Loop is currently asking for donations to support the volunteer-led service. The non-profit says that more funding will contribute to more substance testing.
You can get more information on drug safety and testing on The Loop's website, they have also provided us with a guide on how to approach ecstasy safely below.
If you or any of your friends feel unwell after taking drugs this weekend, please contact a medical professional.
Safi Bugel is Mixmag's Digital Intern, follow her on Twitter